How different are female and male brains?

How difference are male and female brains? I feel studies later show that there aren’t has many differences . That there are more similarities than differences. So there rhusnrhijgs

Yes body AND brains, we are more similar than different. I would say that the way we are built is rather largely adaptable and dependent on learning and practice. Muscles and brains have to be trained – use it or lose it. So while there may be slight differences in the average on some capabilities that really doesn’t tell us much when comparing individuals who live their lives according to different choices, activities, and lifestyles.

Nevertheless we would of course be a bit blind to ignore the fact that there are some differences of substance and significance. Their different reproductive roles is no joke, but there are a few more differences. Men gain strength faster and women seem to have more stamina and endurance (if they use it), not to mention that they live substantially longer.

I read an interesting article a while back about problems osteopathic surgeons were seeing with female high school athletes that the author attributed to them having male coaches who also coached boys teams and the coaches treating the girls like they treated boys when they got hurt. (That is, believing them when they said they could play through pain, instead of forcing them to rest.) The surgeon said that the girls on average had significantly higher pain tolerances and would play on injuries to the point of ruining their bodies. I have read other studies about male/female experience of pain that suggest women do not remember past pain to be as severe as men do and somehow that affects the way they perceive the severity of present pain and causes them to react less to it. Maybe it has something to do with adaptations for childbirth.

I’ve read some about “brain gender” as it relates to gender dysphoria. It seems like all of it is pretty debatable, but it makes sense to me that sex hormones affect brain development in some ways, independent of socialization and culture. But I think not enough to make super distinct female brains and male brains in individuals, maybe just enough to lead to some tendencies that can be generalized in populations.

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“The Essential Difference” by Simon Baron-Cohen is an interesting read on the subject:

He presents a whole lot of research and scientific data that suggests that while there’s a spectrum in terms of how male and female brains work, there is a general trend among men towards more technical ways of thinking such as maths, physics, engineering and so on (what he calls “systemising”), while on the other hand there’s a general trend among women towards more people-oriented subjects (“empathising”). He also presents autism (his specialist area of research) as the “extreme male” end of the spectrum.

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Autism four times more often in boys than in girls. That is a significant difference indeed. This does indeed seem to hit the nail on the head!

But at the same time, the fact that we do see autism in girls… this “extreme male” end of the spectrum again reinforces the conclusion that we are after all more alike than different – the differences are not absolute but only relative or statistical.

I don’t know how much it affects the statistics, but I’ve been reading lately from some who think that women are way underdiagnosed with autism, presumably because women are better at “camouflaging” behavior – so only those on the more extreme end tend to get diagnosed.

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Don’t buy it. More sensitive tests are only going to find more cases in both males and females. These things are always measured by how much the condition interferes with the living of their lives. There is no medical test for autism. In any case, if you look at the research, the conclusions are that at most this can only reduce the ratio down to 3 to 1. But personally I think the 3 to 1 is a result of skewing the measure and the objective approach MUST use exactly the same tests on boys and girls.

I mean… think about what you are really saying here is that girls can carry the genetics for autism without it affecting them as much. I can certainly buy that! It suggests that the majority of the genetics for autism isn’t on the Y chromosome.

I’m having a hard time understanding why this would be medically justified. There is plenty of evidence that standard tests developed with “male as norm” ideas for other problems leads to misdiagnosing women. “Objectivity” isn’t the goal, a correct diagnoses and treatment plan is.

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This simply underlines the difference between science and medicine.

I thought what she was saying was that it affected women differently. A judgment that it is not “as much” because they are more equipped to compensate with other resources is a subjective judgment.

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That’s what I’ve heard. Of course, I’m not a psychologist or medical researcher, so don’t take my word for it, but it wouldn’t be the first time women have been overlooked or harmed due to a “male as normative” approach to their medical treatment.

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From my experience of teaching math to a few thousand middle schoolers, I would say I’ve seen equal extremes in aptitude among both sexes. So I think that means the range of expression is probably the same between those inclined toward empathy vs systematizing. And of course in most cases there is some amount of balance between the two. Indeed I think that is what we’d like for every child to achieve, no matter which is dominant.

Autism would seem to be an extreme imbalance in favor of systematizing. If it occurs so much more often in boys that might be as much because of the lack of development in empathic skills and the corresponding over reliance (and therefore development) of systematizing habits.

I remember hearing somewhere the notion that many differences between the sexes is the result of men having only one X chromosome to draw on. As a result we incur more frequent assembly errors in the womb. I admittedly don’t understand the mechanics but would be grateful if anyone who knows can tell me if a girl baby as an embryo really can draw from either X chromosome and if in fact that happens.

Interesting. I have an autistic son (high functioning), and I know it comes from my side of the family. I have a lot of his quirks, but not to the degree he has them. I’m not autistic, but I’m probably hovering near the spectrum. I also have an engineering mind (and am a woman). I wonder if those things are correlated. My sister is similar to me (though much smarter) and has a more severely autistic son.

Living in a high tech engineering town, the autism rate is pretty high here.

I do think there are some general differences between men and women, but there are also exceptions. Reading books like “Love and Respect”, we tend to have different needs and ways of communicating. In that book, one area that I differ from many women (and I’ve gotten in trouble with a female friend before because of this) is that when I have a problem, I actually DO want a fix. Many women just want someone to listen and commiserate, not solve the problem. Men often want to solve the problem. My friend accused me of being an engineer when I wanted to fix her problem. :rofl: But most “female traits” in that book and others like it fit me pretty well.

Yes, that’s Simon Baron-Cohen’s conclusion that he outlines in his book.

One of the things that he and his team came up with was the Autism Spectrum Quotient – a self-administered test for autistic-like traits in adults of normal intelligence. The original research paper is an interesting read – they found that men on average score slightly higher than women. They also tried it out on Cambridge students and found that mathematicians, physical scientists, engineers and British Mathematical Olympiad winners, and found that they generally score significantly higher than the average population. It’s available online in various places (e.g. here).

Another test that he came up with was the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test to see how good you are at identifying emotions from facial expressions.


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